by Fr. Antony Gabriel
Were I not possessed with a purpose beyond my own.. I had better be a ploughman than a philosopher, for the ploughman lives as long as the philosopher, eats more, sleeps better and rejoices in the wife of his bosom with less misgiving. This is because the philosopher is in the grip of the Life Force. This Life Force says to him,.. – now I want to know myself and my destination, and choose my path; so I have made a special brain — a philosopher’s brain —to grasp this knowledge for me.. – “And this”, says the Life Force to the philosopher “must thou strive to do for me until thou diest, when I will make another brain and another philosopher to carry on the work”
Man & Superman Act III George Bernard Shaw
For the past few years, each summer I joyfully trek to Niagara—on—the—Lake for the Shaw festival with my wife and a few friends. It is always an exhilarating experience to stretch one’s mind encountering art’s response to life and life’s projection on the stage. George Bernard Shaw commented on many facets of society. His characters dramatize for all to see the foibles of human nature, the vulnerabilities of human institutions and ultimate answers that are tested by time and truth.
The value of theatre is precisely that the audience is engaged with the players as they act out the human condition. Each one of us thinks our life situation is unique. In reality, we are a part of a human chain of events in which being born and dying and everything in between is shared by the common humanity we all share, whether it be marriage or property; government or revolt; love and tears etc. etc. The values we hold true, the aspirations of our youth and the global politics are mutual life experiences that each one grapples with on a daily basis. In other words, in sin and folly; in the rhythms of life, we aren’t so unique.
What does single us out in the final analysis is our philosophy of life. The Greek word philosophy means “lover of wisdom.” Wisdom that is the result of our struggle with knowledge that leads to understanding. The Bible is replete with examples of what makes a wise man. And George Bernard Shaw was drenched in the Bible.
Basically we learn that life teaches us many things if we are open to learning. But learning presupposes beginning with the desire for truth: My truth; the truth about being; the truth of the world; the truth about God. Seekers of the truth, we are called. In wisdom, truth and justice kiss one another.
Each person is gifted with intelligence and an indomitable spirit. George Bernard Shaw is telling us that we “ought” to seize every opportunity that lies before us to consciously “control” events around us and to discover the wonders of this magnificent universe. There is nothing that is not in the grasp of a “thinking” and believing” person. How one appropriates life is quite frankly dependent on one’s philosophy of life.
Can I affect others? Yes! Am I happy or bitter? Well it depends. Do I love or hate: That too is rooted in the question of nature. Is my life meaningful or empty? Quo vadis?
Is my marriage bond durable? What kind of relationship do I have with my children? God, is He real to my life? Or are the above only creations or extensions of my myopia?
Ploughman are essential to life’s existence — but so too is the philosopher. For without the philosopher, the ploughman will have little to do. In other words we need a vision or a philosophy of life. Each one of us has to be a philosopher — a lover of wisdom, a seeker of truth lest we perish as a family, a community and as a nation.
It seems to me that our modern day lifestyles gives rise to serious reflection. How easy it is to look elsewhere for solutions to the many problems we face. And without dwelling on “negatives,” from a positive perspective — how does one grow, mature and face the exciting challenges of our era — except by probing, reflecting and taking the long journey inwards, to climb to new heights, and open new possibilities for a better today — and thus a more productive tomorrow.
George Bernard Shaw says it so well:
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
Mrs. Warren’s Profession